Love Wins: One Year Later

by Jesse Johnson, http://thecripplegate.com/love-wins-one-year-later/

It has been just 16 months since Rob Bell’s Love Wins was released. The book, which seeks to undermine the biblical doctrine of eternal punishment, was roundly rejected by evangelical leaders (see herehere, or here). But in college ministries across the country, it had the effect of introducing ambiguity where there was previously certainty.

Today, Rob Bell has left his church, and moved to Los Angeles where he is “working on other creative projects,” and thus proving Jesus’ words that wisdom is vindicated by her children. Those projects are as of yet undisclosed, but there are rumors of a TV show about his life.

As for the theology about eternal punishment, I don’t know of any churches that have changed their doctrinal statements as a result of Bell’s book. He may have introduced ambiguity into the hearts of Christians, but—as of now—it seems like the doctrine of eternal punishment withstood its latest attack.

It is helpful to remember why Christians believe in eternal punishment. I’m not talking about the theological reasons, of which there are many. I’m talking about the biblical reasons. This is a doctrine that is so horrible that nobody would accept it or teach it willingly. It takes more than deductive reasoning to get people to embrace the concept that the majority of people who have ever been born are now in hell, and that they will be there forever. As Robert Peterson in Hell on Trial points out, there are really two kinds of Christians: those that have entertained doubts about the eternal nature of hell, and those that have not seriously thought about the implications of the doctrine. Even Wyane Grudem points out that “if our hearts are not moved with deep sorrow when we contemplate this doctrine, then there is a serious deficiency in our spiritual and emotional sensibilities.”

Because of the reluctance with which most people hold this doctrine, it is not as if the arguments that are put forward in Bell’s book are going to be persuasive. If sound and biblical thinkers could be persuaded out of believing in hell, they would abandon the doctrine. Most people who hold to the doctrine do so not because they want to, but they have simply been overwhelmed by the biblical evidence. For me at least, this is how my thoughts go: “I don’t want to believe in hell, and I can’t imagine the horrors of it, and I can’t imagine how and why it would endure forever and ever, but the Bible is so clear that this is the case, and I am bound to believe what the Scripture teaches.”

What are the main Scripture passages that describe hell as eternal? This list is not comprehensive, but are the ones that I think are most clear:

• OT Prophecy: The most well known passage in the OT on hell is at the end of Isaiah. There, the prophet describes hell as being visible in the eternal state, and notes that “Their maggots will never die, their fire will never go out, and they will be a horror to all mankind” (Isa 66:24). The context of this passage is important. Isaiah is describing how at salvation, the old is gone and the new will be there (Isa 65:17). In that place, where people dwell with God forever, the torment of hell will be real and ever present. Then, to seal this imagery, Jesus quotes these words in Mark 9:48, using the Greek word that indicates that this fire is indeed eternal. Daniel describes hell as eternal as well (Dan 12:2), and this is another verse that is repeated by Jesus.

• Jesus: Our savior describes the fire as hell as “unquenchable” (Mark 9:43). He describes hell as eternal when he explains that at final judgment he will say to those on their way to hell “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!” (Matt 25:41). Later he compares the eternality of hell to the eternality of heaven (Matt 25:46).

• NT Prophecy: The Apostle John describes the smoke of hell as ascending “forever and ever.” In that same passage (Rev 14:11) the smoke is explicitly connected to the torment of those suffering, and is then compared to the endurance of the saints. So the torments of hell last as long as the endurance of those who are saved. This imagery is repeated later—and applied to demons and the devil as well—in Rev 19:3 and 20:10. Later in Rev., it is clear that throughout the new heaven and new earth, there are those outside the city who are being punished by torment (eg. Rev 22:14), so that as long as heaven exists, this description stands.

At the very least, the Bible ties the duration of those that worship God to the duration of those that are punished in hell by God. It is not a happy truth, but it does continually provoke us to be more thankful for his grace and mercy, and that thankfulness will apparently grow even throughout eternity.

The Gospel in an Abortion Culture

“As the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision approaches, most Christians recognize, and rightly so, the loss of millions of unborn human lives. What we often forget is the second casualty of an abortion culture: the consciences of countless men and women.

Too often, pastors and church leaders assume that, when talking about abortion, their invisible debating partner is the “pro-choice” television commentator or politician. Not so. Many of the people endangered by the abortion culture aren’t even pro-choice.

In your congregation this Sunday, and in the neighborhoods around you right now, there are women vulnerable to abortionist propaganda, not because they reject the church but because they’re afraid they ‘ll lose the church. Pregnant young women are scared they will scandalize church people when they start to show, so they keep it secret. Parents are fearful their pregnant daughter, or their son’s pregnant girlfriend, will prompt the rest of the congregation to see them as bad families.

As they keep all of this secret from the Body of Christ, many of them fall prey to the false gospel of the abortion clinic. “We can take care of this for you,” these people say. “And it will all go away.”

Moreover, there are thousands of men and women in our churches who have aborted their children, or urged the abortion of their grandchildren. Bearing the shame of this, they keep it secret. And in the concealment, the satanic powers accuse them: “We know who you are; you’re a murderer, like us.”

Every time pastors and church leaders speak, they are speaking, at least potentially, to these men and women, the aborting and the abortionists. Many of these people don’t argue that the “fetus” is a “person.” Their consciences testify to that, and they’re either tortured by this or violently trying to sear over that persistent internal message.

The answer, for the church, is to preach the gospel to the conscience.

For many evangelicals, to “preach the gospel” seems to be obvious and ineffective because they think this means to, by rote, prompt people to accept Jesus and go to heaven. But the gospel speaks right where the abortion culture is in slavery, to the conscience.

For one thing, those guilty of this silent atrocity often don’t think we’re talking to them. For some, the demonic structures have helped them to conceal this secret, and to convince them the safest thing to do is to try to forget it altogether. Others are so burdened down by guilt, they really don’t believe they are included in the “whosoever will” of our gospel invitations.

Speak directly to these people. To the woman who has had the abortion. To the man who has paid for an abortion. To the health care worker who has profited off of tearing apart the bodies of the young and the consciences of their parents.

Speak clearly of the horror of judgement to come. Confirm what every accusing conscience already knows: clinic privacy laws cannot keep all this from being exposed at the tribunal of Christ. When the Light shines, there’s not enough darkness in which to hide and cringe.

But don’t stop there.

Proclaim just as openly that judgment has fallen on the quivering body of a crucified Jesus—accused by Satan, indicted by the Law, enveloped by the curse.

An abortion culture knows that hell exists, and they know judgment waits (Rom 2:14-16). Agree with them, but point them to the truth that God is not simply willing to forgive them. Show them how in Christ God is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom 3:26).

The woman who has had the abortion needs to know that, if she is hidden in Christ, God does not see her as “that woman who had the abortion.” He hasn’t been subverted from sending her to hell because she found a gospel “loophole.” In Christ, she’s already been to hell.

And, in the resurrected Christ, God has already told her what he thinks of her: “You are my beloved child and in you I am well-pleased.”

The consciences around us don’t believe what they’re telling themselves. They’re scared and accused. Shine the light in the eyes of their consciences. Prophetically. All for justice, legally and culturally, for the unborn. But don’t stop there.

After all, the spirit of murder doesn’t start or end in the abortion clinic (Matt. 5:21, 15:19; Jn. 8:44; Acts 9:1; Rom. 1:29; Jn. 3:15). And the blood of Christ has cleansed the consciences of rebels like all of us.

Warn of hell, but offer mercy. Offer that mercy not only at the Judgment Seat of Christ, but in the small groups and hallways of your church.”

-Russell D. Moore, January 19, 2012, Complements of:  http://www.russellmoore.com/2012/01/19/the-gospel-in-an-abortion-culture/

The Legacy of Luther: Part 1

Translation by Thomas Carlyle, 1831

A safe stronghold our God is still, A trusty shield and weapon;
He’ll help us clear from all the ill that hath us now o’ertaken.
The ancient prince of hell hath risen with purpose fell;
Strong mail of craft and power he weareth in this hour;
On earth is not his fellow.

With force of arms we nothing can, full soon were we down-ridden;
But for us fights the proper Man, whom God Himself hath bidden.
Ask ye, who is this same? Christ Jesus is His Name,
The Lord Sabaoth’s Son; He, and no other one,
Shall conquer in the battle.

And were this world all devils o’er, and watching to devour us,
We lay it not to heart so sore; not they can overpower us.
And let the prince of ill look grim as e’er he will,
He harms us not a whit; For why? — his doom is writ;
A word shall quickly slay him.

God’s Word, for all their craft and force, one moment will not linger,
But, spite of hell, shall have its course; ’tis written by His finger.
And though they take our life, goods, honor, children, wife,
Yet is their profit small; these things shall vanish all:
The City of God remaineth!

 

Translation by Frederic H. Hedge, 1853

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

 

-Martin Luther, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, paraphrase of Psalm 46, 1527-1529

Psalm 46:1-11

For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to Alamoth. A Song.

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.
Selah.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, The holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Selah.

Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire. Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Selah.

A Bold Letter

Dear unsaved friend,
Could you please read the following carefully, and then sign it–if you agree to it.

  

I am resolved to persevere in sin, and follow the maxims and customs of those around me–though it costs me the loss of my soul, and exposes me to everlasting damnation.

I am resolved to reject the Son of God–I will not embrace Him as my Savior, or have Him reign over me. I am resolved that I will not accept the pardon which God presents to me in the gospel, though it cost Jesus His life to procure it–and I know I must eternally perish without it. I am determined not to submit to God’s way of salvation, and I consent to be lost forever! I have made up my mind, that I will never consent to receive a free salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ–I will not have it!

I am resolved . . .
to reject God’s message,
to dare His justice,
to defy His power,
to refuse His mercy,
to brave His threatened wrath, and
to harden myself against all His invitations, expostulations, exhortations, and promises!

I am resolved that I will not . . .
bow to His authority,
yield to His entreaties,
believe on His Son,
repent of my sins,
love His name,
or obey His precepts!

I am determined that there shall never be joy in Heaven among the angels of God–on account of my conversion.

I will never . . .
desert the ranks of Satan,
give up my sinful practices,
ask for mercy at God’s hands,
or take up my cross and follow Christ!

I am resolved . . .
to keep on in my old wicked course,
to persevere in my present sinful path,
to associate with my carnal companions–
and if it secures my eternal damnation–then let it do so!

I will not receive salvation on God’s terms,
I will not stoop to be saved by grace alone,
I will not take the yoke of Christ upon me, and engage to be His subject and servant–even though Heaven and all the glories of eternity would be secured by it.

If I cannot escape the wrath of God–but by faith, repentance, and holiness–why, I am determined go to Hell, for I am resolved not to yield to any such terms!

It is of no use for the preacher to spend His breath upon me! My mind is made up, I will be my own master, I will take my own course! No one has any right to interfere with me–for I shall injure no one but myself!

I have no objection to going to church, or to attending to some religious forms–but to give my heart to God, to be crucified to the present world, and to make God’s glory the end of life–will never do for me; therefore I gladly take the consequences.

If this is required of those who would be true Christians–then you must stop urging me–for I will not yield! You must stop all attempts to convert me, for my mind is made up! I have heard hundreds of sermons, I have read the Bible myself–but I have hardened myself against the whole, and I am not going to yield now!

Tell me no more of the Savior’s love,
tell me no more of the pleasures of holiness,
tell me no more of the terrors of death,
tell me no more of the dreadful judgment,
tell me no more of the joys of Heaven,
tell me no more of the agonies of Hell–
for you will never induce me to yield myself unto God, and seek the salvation of my soul. For my mind is made up, and my daily conduct is enough to convince you of it, if anything would. I am resolved not to yield–let the consequences be what they may!

I will go on just as I have done!

I will not be Christ’s servant!

I will not be God’s child!

I will obey only Satan!

I will follow the course of this evil world!

I will serve my lusts and pleasures!

In proof thereof, witness my signature, ____________.

-James Smith (1802-1862), Letter to an Unsaved Friend

Complements of Geoff Kirkland: http://vassaloftheking.blogspot.com/2011/10/letter-to-unsaved-friend.html

Words From One Under the Altar

“Therefore our Saviour, desirous to set out the pains of hell unto us, and to make us afraid thereof, calls it fire, yea, a burning and unquenchable fire. For as there is no pain so grievous to a man as fire  is, so the pains of hell pass all the pains that may be imagined by any man. There shall be sobbing and sighing, weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, which are the tokens of unspeakable pains and griefs that shall come upon those that die in the state of damnation. For you must understand that there are but two places appointed by Almighty God, for all mankind, that is, heaven and hell.

And in what state soever a man dieth, in the same he shall rise again, for there shall be no alteration or change. Those who die repentant and are sorry for their sins—who cry to God for mercy, are ashamed of their wickedness, and believe with all their hearts that God will be merciful unto them through the passion of our Saviour Christ; those who die in such a faith, shall come into everlasting life and felicity, and shall rise in the last day in a state of salvation. For look—as you die, so shall you arise. Whosoever departeth out of this world without a repentant heart, and has been a malicious and envious man, and a hater of the word of God, and so continues, and will not repent and be sorry, and call upon God with a good faith, or has no faith at all; that man shall come to everlasting damnation; and so he shall arise again at the last day.

For there is nothing that can help a soul when departed out of its damnation, or hinder it of its salvation.”

—Bishop Hugh Latimer, (1485-1555) , martyred for the Name of Christ. From Pulpit of the Reformation

“When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.” – Revelation 6:9-11 NASB

 

Preach on Hell

“If you would ever be a healthy and scriptural Christian, I entreat you to beware of any ministry which does not plainly teach the reality and eternity of hell. Such a ministry may be soothing and pleasant, but it is far more likely to lull you to sleep than to lead you to Christ or build you up in the faith. It is impossible to leave out any portion of God’s truth without spoiling the whole. That preaching is sadly defective which dwells exclusively on the mercies of God and the joys of heaven and never sets forth the terrors of the Lord and the miseries of hell. It may be popular, but it is not scriptural; it may amuse and gratify, but it will not save. Give me the preaching which keeps back nothing that God has revealed.”

J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, “A Woman To Be Remembered”, [Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan Publishing, 2001], 212.

http://jcrylequotes.com/2011/08/23/preach-on-hell-because-it-is-scriptural/

 

Impending Judgment

“There is a judgment coming! People have their reckoning days, and God will at last have His. The trumpet shall sound. The dead shall be raised incorruptible. The living shall be changed. All, of every name, nation, people and tongue, shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ. The books shall be opened, and the evidence brought forth. Our true character will come out before the world. There will be no concealment, no evasion, no false coloring. Every one shall give account of themselves to God, and all shall be judged according to their works. The wicked shall go away into everlasting fire, and the righteous into life eternal. These are dreadful truths! But they are truths, and ought to be told.”

– J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John, volume 2, pp. 422, 423. {John 12:44-50}